[Solved] Explain how the Uprising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.

[Solved] Explain how the Uprising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.

One of the important events of Indian history is the ‘Revolt of 1857’ or ‘India’s first war of

Independence’ or ‘The Sepoy Mutiny’. It was the first rebellion against the East India Company

which took the massive form. It showed resentment towards British policies thus it acted as the

watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.

• Britishers felt that the efforts to westernize the Indian society were one of the reasons which caused

the mutiny, after the revolt they tried to integrate Indian higher castes and rulers into the government

and abolished any attempts of westernisation. Similarly the government distanced itself further

from the Christian missionaries.

• The revolt depicted the Hindu-Muslin unity thus Britishers started to appease one community over

the other giving rise to the divide and rule policy.

• It led to the dissolution of the east India company in 1858 with the passage of government of India

act and was there after directly governed by the crown.

• A new post named Secretary of State was created to govern India and formulate Indian policy. The

Governor General from now on called as viceroy implemented the policies.

• Doctrine of lapse policy was one of the main causes of the revolt was ended.

• Administrative changes were made in the executive, legislative and judicial arenas with greater

participation of Indians .This change was visible in the Indian Council Act 1861, the Indian High

court act 1861 and the Indian Civil Services Act 1861.

• After the rebellion British reorganized the army and brought changes in the financial system and

administration as well. These troops were replaced by new units recruited from castes hitherto

under-utilized by the British and from the so-called “Martial Races”, such as the Sikhs and the

Gorkhas, which were not part of mainstream Indian culture.

• The British increased the ratio of British to Indian soldiers within India. From 1861 Indian artillery

was replaced by British units.

Evolution of British policies after revolt of 1857

  • Divide and rule
    The major lesson the British learnt was that united India was dangerous for their future plans and they needed to bring ridges between groups in order to survive. The British started by bringing religious difference between Hindus and Muslims. They introduced partition of Bengal to further amplify differences and supported divisive groups among both religion.
    The zamindars were favoured so that they can be made loyal to the crown. In deep south, they supported the racial theory of Aryans and Dravidians to further divide the society.
  • Incorporation under the crown
    The biggest policy decision after the revolt was introduction of Government of India Act, 1858 that brought Indian under the British crown and company was relegated to business only. For increasing efficiency of governance, special offices like Secretary for Indian Affairs was created for introducing governance reforms. To buy peace with princely states, British government announced that they will not expand their territories further.
  • Carrot and Stick policy/Uprising of 1857/
    The government needed cooperation of Indian subjects for ruling but they couldn’t be given a free hand. This forced them to introduce carrot and stick policy. On one hand they gave reforms in the form of Indian Council Act of 1861, 1892, 1909 and on the other they introduced strict restrictions on subjects in form of Vernacular Press Act, 1878 and Rowlatt Act, 1919. They hoped to use this to control the subjects.
  • The change in British Policy towards colonial India can be explained as follows:
  • Transfer of administration to British crown: Fear of further revolution brought India under direct Paramountancy of British Crown abolishing rule of the East India Company.
  • Changes in military administration: Attempts were made to break the unity of regiments by accommodating soldiers from different communities in a regiment and they hugely increased the military expenditure at the cost of socio-economic development.
  • Policy of divide and rule: Introduction of Caste based census, separate electorates later were evolved as per British Divide and Rule policy so as to prevent nationalism. For ex. creation of Martial and non martial class in army.
  • Some sensitivity in policy making: Indians started being inducted towards political participation through Indian Council Act of 1861.This implied greater sensitivity in policy making.
  • Abolition of Policy of annexation: The landmark policy of Dalhousie to annex Indian subcontinent territories for colonial expansion was abandoned (Doctrine of Lapse)as princely state were given autonomy with acceptance of British Paramountancy.
  • Support to Zamindars:Zamindars, who were earlier victims of British land revenue policies, were restored with their lands and rights for their loyalty. This also slowly led to rising middle class.
  • Carrot and stick scheme:
    Cycles of Mild Repression – Incentives – Suppression were utilised to control rising demands of Indians.
  • Attitude of non-interference in social & religious issues: British support of social reforms was major cause of 1857 uprising. Hence, British adopted itself out from playing any role in reform.
  • Development of Railway & Communication: In order to consolidate its empire, British developed railway and communication so as to ensure its reach economically, politically, military in every corner of India.
  • Restriction of press:Vernacular Press act 1858 was enacted to discourage press in Indian languages.
  • Policy of neglect of Higher Education: Contrary to earlier position, higher education and intellectuals were abhorred as they were seen as being instrument of modern nationalism.
  • Although1857 revolt wasn’t successful in its objective it is the watershed moment which greatly influenced British policies towards colonial India for next 90 years./Uprising of 1857/

Thus, the Revolt of 1857 was indeed the watershed moment in Indian history, whose impact changed the future political history of pre-independent India.

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